Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Twenty-five years ago, through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), our nation committed itself to eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division is proud to play a critical role in enforcing the ADA, working towards a future in which all the doors are open to equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, integration and economic self-sufficiency for persons with disabilities. In honor of the 25th anniversary of the ADA, each month the Department of Justice will spotlight efforts that are opening gateways to full participation and opportunity for people with disabilities.
The efforts that are spotlighted can be accessed here. Concomitant with the anniversary, the Social Security Administration's July 27, 2015 blog, Supporting the Americans with Disabilities Act, focused on the ADA's anniversary.
There were a number of articles highlighting the ADA's anniversary. For example, the New York Times ran a Room for Debate on the ADA, The Americans With Disabilities Act, 25 Years Later. NPR did a story on the ADA's influence on other countries, How A Law To Protect Disabled Americans Became Imitated Around The World and the Washington Post ran an article by Professor Robert L. Burgdorf Jr., Why I Wrote the Americans with Disabilities Act. President Obama spoke about the anniversary of the ADA and the White House website has a page devoted to issues facing Americans with disabilities.
If you cover the ADA in your classes, there are many more useful articles and stories released as a result of the ADA's 25th anniversary.
Friday, July 24, 2015
On July 22, 2015 the Social Security Trustees issued its annual report about the Social Security Trust funds. According to the press release, the good news overall is SSA gained a year in solvency. The bad news, the disability insurance trust fund reserve runs out of money next year.
The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds are projected to become depleted in 2034, one year later than projected last year, with 79 percent of benefits payable at that time. The DI Trust Fund reserve will become depleted in 2016, unchanged from last year’s estimate, with 81 percent of benefits still payable.
In the press release, Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin addressed the DI Trust Fund issue:
While the projected depletion date of the combined OASDI trust funds gained a year, the Disability Insurance Trust Fund's projected depletion year remains 2016. I agree with President Obama, we have to keep Social Security strong, protecting its future solvency. President Obama's FY 2016 budget proposes to address this near-term Disability Insurance Trust Fund's reserve depletion. By reallocating a portion of payroll taxes from Old Age Survivors to the Disability Trust Fund - as has been done many times in the past - would have no adverse effect on the solvency of the overall Social Security program....
The full report The 2015 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds is available as a pdf here.
The Medicare Trustees report was also released on July 22, 2015. The news from Medicare was slightly better, with the trust fund solvency still in place through 2030.
[T]he Medicare Trustees projected that the trust fund that finances Medicare’s hospital insurance coverage will remain solvent until 2030, unchanged from last year, but with an improved long-term outlook from last year's report. Under this year’s projection, the trust fund will remain solvent 13 years longer than the Trustees projected in 2009, before the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
However, the press release notes an anticipated increase in Medicare Part B premiums for next year:
[A]pproximately 70 percent of beneficiaries are expected not to see a premium increase in 2016 because it is projected that there will be no cost-of-living increases in Social Security benefits. The remaining 30 percent of beneficiaries would pay a higher premium based on this projection. These include only individuals who enroll in Part B for the first time in 2016; enrollees who do not receive a Social Security benefit; beneficiaries that are directly billed for their Part B premium; and current enrollees who pay an income related higher premium. Decisions about premium changes will be made in October and depend on a variety of factors.
Thursday, July 16, 2015
Probably the best bang for your CLE buck in Pennsylvania comes from the two-day Elder Law Institute hosted each summer by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute. This year the 18th annual event is on July 23 & 24 in Harrisburg.
- "The Year in Review" with attorneys Marielle Hazen and Robert Clofine sharing duties to report on key legislative, regulatory and judicial developments from the last 12 months;
- How to "maximize" eligibility for home and community based services (Steve Feldman and Pam Walz);
- Cross disciplinary discussions of end-of-life care with medical professionals and hospice providers;
- LTC "provider" perspectives (Kimber Latsha and Jacqueline Shafer);
- Latest on proposals to change Veterans' Pension Benefits (Dennis Pappas);
- Implementation of the Pa Supreme Court's Elder Law Task Force Recommendations (Judges Lois Murphy, Paula Ott, Sheila Woods-Skipper & Christin Hamel);
- A closing session opportunity, "Let's Ask the Department of Human Services Counsel" (with Addie Abelson, Mike Newell & Lesley Oakes)
There is still time to registration (you can attend one or both days; lunches are included and there is a reception the first evening).
I think this is the first year I have missed this key opportunity for networking and updates; but I'm sending my research assistant!
July 16, 2015 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Medicaid, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Property Management, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, July 8, 2015
Two of my favorite bright lawyers (with great hearts, too) are Kate Lang from Justice in Aging in Washington D.C. and John Whitelaw from Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. Kate and John are the speakers at an upcoming ABA hosted webinar on Supplemental Security Income (SSI): What Every Attorney Needs to Know.
Time: 1 to 2:30 p.m. (Eastern Time)
Date: Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Here are other details about registration and cost.
Monday, July 6, 2015
The State Bar of California offers an on-line "guide for maturing Californians," available in PDF format. This is an updated, 2015 version. At first I was a bit dubious, as the length is just 12 pages and the print is small. However, on closer look (and with the help of that little built-in magnifying class for reading PDF documents on line), I found it fairly comprehensive and a good starting place. It works not just for seniors but the whole family.
Written in a logical Q & A format, often starting with "yes or no" answers before offering a more detailed explanation and suggested resources, the brochure covers topics such as:
- What is Supplemental Security Income?
- Can my landlord evict me for any reason at all?
- Can I install grab bars, lower my counters or make other needed modifications over my landlord's objections?
- How is Medi-Cal different from Medicare?
- How can I help ensure that my affairs will be handled my way if I become incapacitated?
- If my elderly mother gives away her assets, will Medi-Cal pay for a nursing home?
In addition, the brochure describes more subtle topics such as how "assisted living communities," may differ (and be covered by different regulations ) than "continuing care retirement communities," or why "living trust mills" are something to avoid. It warns that insurance brokers and agents other investment advisors are prohibited in California from using "senior specific" certificates or designations to mislead consumers.
According to the July 215 issue of the California Bar Journal, the senior guide is available in both Spanish and English, although I could only find the English version on-line. Free print copies are available for order (although donations to offset costs are accepted!)
Thank you to Professor Laurel Terry for sharing this resource!
July 6, 2015 in Books, Consumer Information, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Social Security, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, June 21, 2015
As negotiations over the Greek debt crisis continue, with another crisis point looming this week, much of the attention is on the issue of pension reform, with Eurozone critics demanding cuts in benefits and pointing to early "full retirement" and payments that rival real wages. However, as several accounts help to explain, individuals' public pensions are often important to entire family structures, especially as younger Greek workers are unable to find jobs with adequate wages, and unemployment compensation is unavailable.
For more see Bloomberg News: Unwed Daughters in Greece Catch "Time Bomb" in Pension Overhaul
From National Public Radio: Greece Pledges New Proposal to Resolve Debt Crisis
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
During the last two years I have had the fascinating opportunity to work on two major studies of laws and government policies affecting older persons and their families in Northern Ireland, studies initiated by the Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland (COPNI). The earlier study looked at safeguarding systems. Now the second study has been made public, with Northern Ireland Commissioner Claire Keatinge using the work to recommend major reforms of Adult Social Care laws in her country. The formal launch of her "call for change" occurred on June 16 in Belfast.
Two of my four research colleagues, Dr. Joe Duffy (far left, who led the research team) and Dr. Gavin Davidson, (far right) both of Queens University Belfast, were present for the launch, with Joe giving introductory remarks to the audience of government officials and community stakeholders. The fourth member of our team is Dr. Subhajit Basu of the University of Leeds in England. Our research evaluated government policies and law in more than ten nations, looking for legal trends, best practices and cutting edge social care programs.
Significantly, in addition to recommending a comprehensive legislative framework and funding structure to coordinate services for all adults in need of assistance, one key recommendation announced by Commissioner Keatinge (left center above) and highlighted in our investigative report, is to implement a "Support Visit" for any interested person age 75 years or older, by an appropriately trained health and social care worker. This recommendation, which draws upon Denmark's successful experience with a "preventative home visitor" program, would create an opportunity for a psychosocial dialogue aimed at advance planning. The goal is to help individuals and family members anticipate needs in the event of functional impairment, thus reducing the need for crisis planning.
I've become a big fan of Commissioner Keatinge; she is clear, creative, realistic, and determined to see Northern Ireland become a world leader in recognizing not just the needs but the contributions made by older adults. She does so from a platform of respecting older persons' contributions, citing research to demonstrate that over the next several decades, older adults will contribute more than £25 billion to the Northern Ireland economy through formal work, volunteering, and their roles as caretakers for both adults and children.
It had been an honor for me to work on this social care reform project. The work has given me -- and Dickinson Law students serving as research assistants, Ryan Givens and Tucker Anderson (who used his ability to speak and translate Danish to help in our field research) -- important new perspectives on proactive ways to identify and address potential needs triggered by age-related changes in demographics. Frankly, in the U.S. we spend far more time (and arguably too much time) on issues of medical care. This report is a reminder that many health-care crises could be avoided or mitigated through more proactive implementation of social care networks.For more on the Duffy, Davidson, Basu, Pearson report (June 2015), see Review of Legislation & Policy Guidance Relating to Adult Social Care in Northern Ireland.
For more on Commissioner Claire Keatinge's call for reform, see Commissioner Calls for Overhaul of Adult Social Care.
See here, for more on Denmark's approaches to services, communication and programming for older people.
Special thanks to Ryan and Tucker for their research, proofreading, editing and translation skills!
June 16, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, International, Retirement, Science, Social Security, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, June 11, 2015
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report dated May, 2015 on Retirement Security: Most Households Approaching Retirement Have Low Savings. The 51 page report is available here. The GAO offered this summary:
Many retirees and workers approaching retirement have limited financial resources. About half of households age 55 and older have no retirement savings (such as in a 401(k) plan or an IRA). According to GAO's analysis of the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances, many older households without retirement savings have few other resources, such as a defined benefit (DB) plan or nonretirement savings, to draw on in retirement (see figure below). For example, among households age 55 and older, about 29 percent have neither retirement savings nor a DB plan, which typically provides a monthly payment for life. Households that have retirement savings generally have other resources to draw on, such as non-retirement savings and DB plans. Among those with some retirement savings, the median amount of those savings is about $104,000 for households age 55-64 and $148,000 for households age 65-74, equivalent to an inflation-protected annuity of $310 and $649 per month, respectively. Social Security provides most of the income for about half of households age 65 and older...
Studies and surveys GAO reviewed provide mixed evidence about the adequacy of retirement savings. Studies range widely in their conclusions about the degree to which Americans are likely to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living in retirement, largely because of different assumptions about how much income this goal requires. The studies generally found about one-third to two-thirds of workers are at risk of falling short of this target. In surveys, compared to current retirees, workers age 55 and older expect to retire later and a higher percentage plan to work during retirement. However, one survey found that about half of retirees said they retired earlier than planned due to health problems, changes at their workplace, or other factors, suggesting that many workers may be overestimating their future retirement income and savings. Surveys have also found that people age 55-64 are less confident about their finances in retirement than those who are age 65 or older
Highlights of the GAO report are available here.
Friday, May 29, 2015
Light blogging ahead for me, as I will be leaving in a couple of days for my first visit to Cuba, as part of a small Penn State University faculty group. I'm confident I will have plenty of things to do with my time other than searching for an elusive internet café!
Seriously, I'm excited, on a number of levels. First, I lived for several years in a Cuban-immigrant neighborhood in Miami at the end of law school, and many of my fellow judicial clerks and friends were the first generation sons and daughters of Cuban refugees. Second, I've been educated by my Irish friend, Dr. Una Lynch, to appreciate the world-wide significance of the Cuban health care system, and I'm eager to see how they accomplish much with comparatively few resources. Third, my Elder Law colleague, Amos Goodall Esq., State College, PA, has shared great suggestions for art and food. Plus, Attorney Karen Miller (NY and Florida) has shared her contacts with me from her travels and studies about law in Cuba. ¡Gracias a todos!
Here are a couple of items from some of my background reading on Cuba, including health care and aging statistics:
Turning to Cuba, let us examine the possible consequences of the tendency towards population aging that we have described. In the economic field, the consequences include an accelerated demand for the funds to cover social security expenditures. In fact, since 1970 funds budgeted for old-age, disability and death benefits have quintupled. National budget expenditures for social security are higher than those of any other sector (e.g. education, health, defense, etc.) (Cuban National Statistics Office, 1999 "c").
At the same time, as the average age of Cuba's workforce increases over the coming years, we will see a deficit of workers for labor requiring greater physical effort, especially for agriculture, construction and industry, among others. Consequently, the main economic difficulty Cuba faces today-as it did during the colonial period and at the beginning of the 20th century-is an insufficient workforce.
From Aging in Cuba, Realities and Challenges, byAlberta Duran Gondar and Ernesto Chavez Negrin.
During her recent visit to Havana in July of 2014, Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), impressed by the country's achievements in this field, praised the Cuban health care system: "Cuba is the only country that has a health care system closely linked to research and development. This is the way to go, because human health can only improve through innovation," She also praised "the efforts of the country's leadership for having made health an essential pillar of development."
Monday, May 25, 2015
University of South Dakota Assistant Professor of Law Thomas E. Simmons has an intriguing article in the summer 2015 issue of Hastings Women's Law Journal. From his article, "Medicaid as Coverture," here are some excerpts (minus detailed footnotes) to whet your appetite:
Not long ago, married women possessed limited rights to own separate property or contract independently of their husbands. Beginning in the nineteenth century, most of the most serious legal impediments to women enjoying ownership rights in property and freedom of contract were removed....
Three twenty-first century developments, however, diminish some of this progress. First, later-in-life (typically second) marriages have become more common.... These types of couples were not the spouses that reformers had in mind in designing inheritance rights or other property rights arising out of the marital relationship....
Second, perhaps as a product of advocacy for women's property rights, and perhaps out of a larger social remodeling, women's holdings of wealth have made significant advances.... [But] women of some wealth (in later-in-life marriages, especially) may in fact find themselves penalized by the very gender-neutral reforms that were designed to help them; especially, as will be unpacked and amplified below, when those reforms interface with Medicaid rules.
Third, beginning in the late twentieth century, the possibility of ongoing custodial care costs became the single greatest threat to financial security for older Americans.
As practicing elder law attorneys experience on a daily basis, Medicaid eligibility rules, despite the so-called "Spousal Impoverishment" protections, can impact especially harshly on married women as the community spouses. They are often younger and thus will have their own financial needs, frequently have been caregivers before being widowed, but their personal assets may still be included in the Medicaid estate for purposes of determining their husbands' eligibility. This article takes a critical, interesting approach to that problem.
May 25, 2015 in Discrimination, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Thursday, May 14, 2015
PBS is premiering a powerful documentary special, Caring for Mom & Dad, during the month of May, with Meryl Streep as the narrator. A sample? Many of us might find resonance with one adult's "bad daughter" (or "bad son") feelings of guilt, candidly admitted here.
Even more important than the video itself will be the conversations that follow viewing. Check your local public t.v. schedule to see when the program will air in your area. (You can check here, to see if the documentary is scheduled yet in your viewing area -- go to the drop down menu for "Schedule.") Plus, in some markets, the documentary will be combined with a live call-in opportunity for individuals and families to explore health care, social care, financial topics and legal issues with a panel of experts.
My own university, Penn State, is hosting the special on Thursday, May 28, 2015 at 8:00 p.m. (Eastern time), followed by Conversations Live at 9:00 p.m. That is two weeks from today on WPSU-TV, a station that reaches a viewing area of 29 counties in central Pennsylvania. In addition, the Conversations Live program will be broadcast on WPSU-FM radio and can be viewed "on-line" at WPSU.org.
As a result of an invitation to be part of the WPSU studio panel, I've had the opportunity to watch the documentary -- several times (it's that interesting!) -- in preparation to help in responding to audience comments, emails and call-in questions. Additional Conversations Live guests include:
Ai-jen Poo, co-director of Caring Across Generations and director of National Domestic Workers Alliance, will be joining via satellite from D.C. Ai-jen Poo is featured in the documentary, and she also has a particular interest in enactment of a Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights, to deal realistically and fairly with the work force that will be necessary to meet the boomer generation's care needs.
Dr. Gwen McGhan, Hartford Center for Geriatric Nursing Excellence at Penn State, with a research background on informal family caregiving.
Jane McDowell, Hartford Center for Geriatric Nursing Excellence at Penn State, and a geriatric nurse practitioner.
The documentary was produced by WGBH-Boston, with funding assistance from AARP and Pfizer.
Please join us and share your stories and observations. The documentary starts with personal stories, but the public policy messages that emerge are ones that need to be heard at state and federal levels -- and heard clearly -- for there to be hope for realistic, necessary and timely solutions.
May 14, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Film, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
The recent issue of Bifocal, the bi-monthly Journal of the ABA Commission on Law and Aging has a great line-up of articles, including a piece by Social Security Administration (SSA) specialist Janet Truhe on Social Security Seeks Pro Bono Lawyers to Meet Need for Representative Payees. She notes that many disabled individuals do not have family members or other trusted persons who can serve as their agents for receipt and management of Social Security benefits. Anticipating the need for "rep payees" will continue to grow as boomers age, SSA is recruiting attorneys to serve:
Recently, the agency announced the implementation of a pro bono pilot in the State of Maryland (where SSA is headquartered), which is aimed at expanding the pool of suitable representative payee candidates statewide. SSA believes that partnership with the legal community for this purpose is a natural fit....
One particular advantage of this pro bono opportunity is that any attorney, regardless of his or her specialty, can serve as a representative payee with SSA providing any needed assistance. SSA has created a web site for attorney volunteers with training and other information about the role of a representative payee. Any licensed attorney in Maryland, or in neighboring jurisdictions, who would like to volunteer as a representative payee for a beneficiary residing in Maryland can go to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/payee/probonopilot.htm and complete an online registration form. SSA will send the volunteer attorney’s contact information to the servicing local field office. When SSA needs a representative payee for a particular beneficiary, that field office will contact one of the volunteer attorneys and make an appointment for the attorney to come in for an interview and meet the beneficiary.
Hat tip to ElderLawGuy Jeff Marshall for pointing out this SSA recruitment effort.
Monday, May 4, 2015
The National Institute on Retirement Security has issued a new report, Retirement Security 2015: Roadmap for Policy Makers. Americans' Views of the Retirement Crisis. The 36 page report offers 7 key findings
- An overwhelming majority of Americans believe there is a retirement crisis...
- Three in four Americans remain highly anxious about their retirement outlook, but the concern has dissipated slightly as the economy has recovered…
- Even though Americans feel slightly less stressed about their retirement prospects, support for steady and reliable retirement income from a pension is high and growing…
- Americans continue to feel that leaders in Washington do not understand their struggle to save for retirement, and they strongly support efforts by states to set up retirement plans for those workers without access to an employer sponsored plan…
- Americans see retirement benefits as a job feature that is almost as important as salary...
- Americans express strong support for pensions for public employees…
- Protecting Social Security benefits is increasingly important…
The nationwide poll is conducted every two years and "is intended to serve as a tool for policymakers, thought leaders and retirement service providers as they work to stem the retirement crisis and re-fortify the U.S. retirement infrastructure." The full report is available here.
The Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) recently published an interesting examination of financial situations of older Americans at the end of their lives. The report documents:
- the percentage of households with a member who recently died "with few or no assets,"
- the continued importance of Social Security for older households,
- the potential importance of "big data" analytics "to determine how people behave when it comes to health and retirement plans," including the potential to "get better results at lower cost," and
- the fact that the "health sector is considerably farther down the road than the retirement sector in using data analytics in benefits plan design and management."
Sunday, May 3, 2015
My Retirement Paycheck is an interactive website from the National Endowment for Financial Education. The website offers 8 icons on which the user clicks to learn more about the topic. The 8 topics include home & mortgage, insurance, retirement plans, savings & investments, debt, fraud, work and Social Security. Each topic offers information in an easy to understand format and links for additional readings.
Monday, April 20, 2015
The 2015 White House Conference on Aging held two more regional forums, one in Phoenix and one in Seattle. There are two regional forums left, one in Cleveland on April 27 and one in Boston on May 28.
As well, the WHCOA will be sponsoring a webinar on April 23 on retirement security. The website offers the following information about the webinar
With Americans living longer, pension options changing, and fewer workers spending careers with a single employer, the sources of retirement security are also changing. This webinar will provide an overview of best practices to help ensure greater opportunity and ability to enjoy a financially secure retirement. Speakers will include officials from the U.S. Treasury Department, the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, and Harvard University. Registration is required and open until April 22nd.... This is the third in WHCOA’s webinar series designed to raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities for older adults in the U.S. We hope you will join us for this engaging discussion of best practices for a secure retirement.
The webinar is free; registration is required. Click here to register.
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
St. Louis University's Journal of Health Law and Policy has recently released a theme issue, focused on "Health Care Reform, Transition and Transformation in Long-Term Care." A great line-up of articles and authors, including:
- Home & Community-Based Long-Term Services and Supports: Health Reform's Most Enduring Legacy? by Marshall B. Kapp
- Care Coordination for Dually Eligible Beneficiaries, by Katie M. Dean and David C. Grabowski
- The Challenge of Financing Long-Term Care, by Judy Feder
- Rationalizing Home and Community-Based Services Under Medicaid, by Laura D. Hermer
- The Broken Promise of OBRA '87: The Failure to Validate Survey Protocol, by Malcolm J. Harkins III
In addition, there are two relevant Notes written by SLU students:
- Short-Stay, Under Observation. or Inpatient Admission? How CMS' Two Midnight Rule Creates More Confusion and Concern, by Rachel A. Polzin
- Disclosure for Closure? Why the Self-Referral Disclosure Protecol Process Paired with the 60-Day Overpayment Rule Creates More Headaches than Solutions, by Peter J. Eggers
April 7, 2015 in Discrimination, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Friday, March 27, 2015
I thought it fitting to end the week with a recent story from the New York Times. You know that old saying that goes something like this "you are only as old as you feel"? Well according to Social Security, a whole bunch of us are a lot older than we are.... The A.P. ran an article on March 16, Flawed Social Security data say 6.5M in US reach age 112. The article notes that the reality is only about 42 people in the world are that old. So what about the other 6.4+ million others? According to the article, lack of death certificates can be a partial explanation.
But Social Security does not have death records for millions of these people, with the oldest born in 1869, according to a report by the agency's inspector general.
Only 13 of the people are still getting Social Security benefits, the report said. But for others, their Social Security numbers are still active, so a number could be used to report wages, open bank accounts, obtain credit cards or claim fraudulent tax refunds.
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Government Affairs held a hearing on SSA and death records on March 16, 2015. The solution is a bit more complicated than you might think, according to the article. Think about paper records and how time consuming it is to convert them to electronic records. Social Security is concerned about whether 6.5 million people are alive or not, but "the inspector general's report did not verify that any of the 6.5 million people are actually dead. Instead, the report assumed they are dead because of their advanced age." An SSA official was quoted as saying "our focus right now is to make sure our data is as accurate and complete as it can be for our current program purpose,... Right now, we're focused on making sure we're paying beneficiaries properly, and that's how we're investing our resources at this time."
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
In advance of his appearance and in preparation for his focus on "Special Needs Planning," Stephen Spano, who is board certified as an elder law attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) and whose firm concentrates its practice on elder law, estate planning and special needs planning, asked the students to watch two very interesting -- indeed inspiring -- Ted Talk videos.
Here is his first assignment -- and I look forward to seeing how he uses both videos with our students:
His second assigned video "homework" is from Aimee Mullins, who talks about "My 12 Pairs of Legs."
A new book about Social Security has been getting some buzz since its release last month. Get What's Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Social Security is published by Simon & Schuster and authored by Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Phillip Moeler & Paul Solman. Here is an excerpt from the publisher's website
Learn the secrets to maximizing your Social Security benefits and earn up to thousands of dollars more each year with expert advice that you can’t get anywhere else. Want to know how to navigate the forbidding maze of Social Security and emerge with the highest possible benefits? You could try reading all 2,728 rules of the Social Security system (and the thousands of explanations of these rules), but Kotlikoff, Moeller, and Solman explain Social Security benefits in an easy to understand and user-friendly style. What you don’t know can seriously hurt you: wrong decisions about which Social Security benefits to apply for cost some individual retirees tens of thousands of dollars in lost income every year. How many retirees or those nearing retirement know about such Social Security options as file and suspend (apply for benefits and then don’t take them)? Or start stop start (start benefits, stop them, then re-start them)? Or—just as important—when and how to use these techniques? ...
The New York Times ran an article about this book on March 13, 2015. The Social Security Maze and Other U.S. Mysteries discusses the book as well as the intricacies of Social Security. Those of us elder law profs who cover Social Security in our classes know how complex it can be. As the article illustrates, it is more complicated than even we thought.
Given that there are 2,728 core rules and thousands more supplements to them according to the authors, it pays, literally, to seek out a guide...
The book’s success is also, however, symptomatic of something that we take for granted but should actually disgust us: The complexity of our financial lives is so extreme that we must painstakingly manage each and every aspect of it, from government programs to investing to loyalty programs. Mr. Kotlikoff’s game has yielded large winnings for his friends and readers (and several dinners of gratitude), but the fact that gamesmanship is even necessary in the first place with our national safety net is shameful.
The lead author explained how he came to this point "[s]oon, Mr. Kotlikoff was developing a computer model for various payouts from the government program and realized that consumers might actually pay to use it....From that instinct, a service called Maximize My Social Security was born, though it wasn’t easy to do and get it right. 'We had to develop very detailed code, and the whole Social Security rule book is written in geek,” he said. “It’s impossible to understand.'” The article goes on to illustrate some complexity by using as example health savings accounts and discuss why a well-intentioned law has become so complicated.
We all know it is a complicated program, so it's great to have another resource available to help explain everything. The book is available in hard copy or as an e-book either from the publisher or other book sellers.